The Tale of my Book

Yesterday I wrote a letter of thank you to my old English Lit teacher, Mrs McGarvey. Twenty years too late, maybe. She’s retired now, swims a lot, still living locally. You see I was a rebel at 18––or at least I wanted to be––and while all my teachers were pushing me to follow academia at Queen’s University, I plumped for art college. My main motivation: to do the opposite of what everyone was telling me to do. But I thought of Mrs McGarvey often as I was writing Silk for the Feed Dogs. Brimful of enthusiasm, she opened up the mysteries of Shakespeare, the cast of characters in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales and, of course, the beautiful words of Seamus Heaney. I was hooked.

Chaucer's cast of characters includes friars, squires, merchants, nuns.

Chaucer’s cast of characters includes friars, squires, merchants, nuns.

I thought the time had come to let her know the effect her teaching had on me and that it played a part in the creation of my novel all these years later. I guess I like to find the harmony in things. Although I flounced off to art school, I wanted to reassure her I had spent my time well. That choice led to a career in the fashion industry that inspired my novel’s own eccentric cast of characters. It filled me full of tales.

Years of design sketchbooks and portfolios

Years of design sketchbooks and portfolios

All those hours spent drawing  would later be translated into words and sentences.  All the colors, shapes and patterns would not be forgotten in my writing. See, Mrs McGarvey?

Fabrics, illustrations and embellishments of my career in the fashion industry

Fabrics, illustrations and embellishments from my career in the fashion industry

And so we have come full circle. I received my copy only at the weekend, long after many of you. I almost don’t recognize the words that I slaved over. They look so different inside a real book. There are some things I would do differently but overall, I’m chuffed.

Look what I made! I want to yell. It’s all by design!

I hope Mrs McGarvey likes it.

Me and my novel

Me and my novel

15 comments

  1. Breige

    Great teachers really do leave their mark. Lovely that you gave Mrs McGarvey a mention.

  2. From time to time I think of the English teacher who nurtured within me the belief I too could do this, AH Davis. Sadly he died a couple of years ago, so I won’t be able to come full circle in the way you have done. I’m sure she will be very proud of you. I hope you sent her a free copy along with your letter of thanks 🙂

  3. Eek, I didn’t think of it, Donald! I suppose I didn’t have one at hand. I have ordered some review copies from Amazon and they’re on their way but until then…I can always send it later…
    As long as Mr Davis left his mark on you, his legacy lives.

  4. I think she will be utterly delighted! Congratulations to you! xxx

  5. That’s such a wonderful story! A few years ago I wrote a piece for a class I was taking about the teacher who inspired me most and was able to get a copy of it to that teacher; it was a beautiful moment. I love that you took the time to thank her – I bet it made her day 🙂

    • I hope so,I’m sure your teacher was chuffed to bits to receive it. I teach also–not writing, but fashion design–and I can see how if you devote your whole life to it as a full-time job, it could be pretty exhausting. Uplifting too, but I imagine not a lot of kids take the time to thank the teachers they learned the most from. They are formative figures in our development, Maybe we need the benefit of hindsight to really understand their value 🙂

  6. Lovely post, Jackie! I’m coming by your blog for the first time (in response to your kindness in coming to mine and commenting). I’m in awe of your talent: fashion design, writing. And your big heart in giving a shout-out to your former teacher.

  7. Congratulations Jackie, your teacher, hearing of her students success, and receiving acknowledgment after the fact, gives Mrs McGarvey has a blessing beyond your intentions. Well done.

    • Congratulations Jackie, your teacher, hearing of her students success, and receiving acknowledgment after the fact, gives Mrs McGarvey a blessing beyond your intentions. Well done.

      proofreading too late, alas

    • Thank you. I’m actually going to meet up with Mrs McG when I’m home over the holidays so that will be a nice way to cap the whole experience. Although probably strange too as it will be twenty years since I last saw her. She was a very proud woman who stalked about in calf length plaid skirts, wore short, well styled hair, had an erect walk and spoke with a certain hauteur. We all change with age but it’s always jarring. I’ll keep you posted 🙂

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